April 04, 2021

TN: Farmers, Fisher Folk Mahapanchayat

Thomas Franco

MARCH 27, 2021 saw a huge confluence of over 20,000 farmers and fisher folk at the coastal village Keelhaulers Manakudy, near Kanyakumari, the land’s end where three seas  meet at the confluence.

Addressing the mahapanchayat, Ashok Dhawale, president, All India Kisan Sabha stated that lakhs of farmers of the country are at the Singhu, Tikri, Ghazipur and Shahjahanpur borders of Delhi for the last four months. 300 farmers have been martyred but the BJP government in power does not care; they only care for the corporates. He referred to Mukesh Ambani’s house in Malabar Hills in Mumbai where a family of five is living in a 27 floor house built at a cost of Rs 10,000 crore. Ambani has earned Rs 90 crore per hour last year even during the Covid pandemic, when crores of our countrymen were devastated. Gautam Adani’s wealth has grown at the fastest rate last year during Corona. He wants to build a port at Kanyakumari. He already has control over 13 ports including Vizhinjam which is 40 kilometres away.

The BJP government will support him to the hilt. But people will not allow it. The huge confluence of fisher folk and farmers on this coast proves that, he stated. Farmers and workers all over the country, who produce all the wealth of our country, who are being targeted by the Modi regime, are unitedly fighting against the three farm laws and the four labour codes and for an MSP guarantee law. He added that the Samyukta Kisan Morcha which is leading the farmers struggle is appealing to the voters to reject the BJP and its allies. “I am sure you will do that in Kanyakumari and in Tamilnadu,” he said and everyone applauded. We will stand together as farmers, fisherfolk and workers against this government which is fascistic, undemocratic and run by corporates, he said.

Olencio Simoes, general secretary of National Fishworkers Forum stated that the government wants to hand over the entire coast to private corporates in the name of blue economy. They want areas around every port to be brought under the port authorities and remove the powers of elected panchayats and municipalities. Without finalising the Coastal Zone Management Plan, they want a port at Kanyakumari which is a violation of law.  We will fight together with farmers and workers on a common platform as our goal is common, he stated.

Kanwalpreet Singh Pannu, convenor of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti detailed why farmers were agitating in Punjab for several months and decided to move to Delhi as there was no response from the government. He stated that four months are over and the agitation is expanding.  He declared that the agitation will continue till the farm laws are withdrawn. He also stated that farmers, fish workers and workers of the country have to fight together and appealed to the people to defeat the BJP and its allies.

The meeting was presided over by M G Devasahayam, IAS (retd). Kodikal Sheikh Abdullah, 88 year old social activist and freedom fighter, Bishop Nazreen Soosai, Balaprajatipati Adiglar, from the Ayah Vaikuntar Math which stands for social reforms, Sundarrajan, from the friends of Earth, Tulasi Narayan of AIKS from Kattupalli Port Struggle Committee,  and young children of the village spoke. Thomas Franco conducted the public meeting.

The kisan–fisherfolk mahapanchayat was against a port under PPP at Kanyakumari which is a fragile, beautiful district with lot of natural wealth and a place for religious tourism. A resolution demanding a public declaration that the project be withdrawn forever was passed by more than 20,000 participants. The highlight of this struggle was the agitation in the sea where more than 300 boats assembled with big black flags. 

The Kanyakumari conclave is the beginning of a larger coalition of farmers, fish workers and the working class of the country.